Monday, November 11, 2019

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

Understanding Impeachment

There is so much nonsense spouted about impeachment these days, whether deliberate obfuscation or unknowingly, that you might find these items useful. (The most basic sources, from the Constitution, are Article II, Section 4 (impeachment power), Art. I, Sec. 2, Clause 5 (possessed by the House), Art. I, Sec. 3, Cl. 6 (trial in Senate). You are spared additional footnotes, though specific citations can be provided if desired.)

This material is hoped, intended and believed to be accurate, but does not purport to be, and is not, either a "legal opinion" or "scholarship."

There are three sections to which these links can take you: (1) The Obligation to Impeach, (2) Impeachment Standard Not "Illegality," and (3) Trump Has Violated the Law. [Photo credit: Wikimedia.]

The Obligation to Impeach. Every president, House and Senate member, and federal judge has sworn to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution requires each branch (legislative, executive and judicial) to maintain the balance of power among the three branches and prevent constitutional violations by the other two.

Thus, it can be argued the House has a constitutional obligation to begin an impeachment inquiry when there is reason to believe a president may have said or done things that precedent suggests constitute “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The Congress has no more constitutional right to evade this responsibility, to fail to exercise this specifically granted power, than it has a right to fail to exercise its power to take the census every ten years. It certainly cannot refuse to start an impeachment inquiry because it might be politically harmful to the majority party in the House, or because the president may fail to win reelection. Nor can it fail to impeach because the Senate is unlikely to convict, any more than a grand jury can fail to indict because of the possibility the trial jury may be biased in favor of the accused.

Why? Because there are more reasons for the impeachment power than the potential removal of a specific president. Impeachment is designed to maintain for the future both (1) the standards of presidential conduct required by the founders and (2) exercise of the checks and balances the Constitution compels between the Legislative and Executive branches.

Impeachment Standard Not “Illegality.” President Trump’s defenders have altered their arguments as facts evolved – from, in effect, “he didn’t do it,” to “he may have done it, but he did nothing wrong,” to “he may have exercised bad judgment and done something wrong, but he did nothing illegal,” to “it can’t have been illegal because there was no quid-pro-quo,” to “even if it was illegal, and there was a quid-pro-quo, it is not an impeachable offense.”

As “Late Night” host Seth Meyers would say, “It’s time for a closer look.”

The founders modeled their constitutional standard for impeachment on British practice, which had its origins in 1341. Articles of impeachment in Great Britain included such things as “arbitrary and tyrannical government,” “procuring offices for persons who were unfit, and unworthy of them,” “squandering away the public treasure,” “improprieties in office,” “gross maladministration,” “corruption in office,” “neglect of duty,” excessive drinking and cursing that created “the highest scandal . . . on the kingdom.”

The British practice was to treat impeachment as a remedy separate from the process and standards of the criminal law and to include conduct not expressly recognized as “illegal.”

Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s language is influenced, but not bound, by British history. But American history is almost identical. The writings of Constitutional Convention members Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and James Madison indicate they believed impeachment did not require criminal offences. Nothing in the records of the states’ ratification of the Constitution indicate they believed impeachment was limited to criminal offenses. Of the first 13 impeachments by the House since 1789 (mostly of judges), at least 10 included charges that did not involve criminal law. Finally, Congress has never attempted to define “impeachment” in Title 18 of the U.S. Code (criminal code).

So far, three U.S. presidents have been impeached (Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton) and a fourth (President Trump) is undergoing an impeachment inquiry. None, so far, has been removed from office following the Senate trial. (President Johnson was saved by one vote; President Nixon resigned before his seemingly inevitable formal impeachment.)

Each presidential impeachment has involved some article dealing with other than criminal illegality.

As discussed in ”Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeansors,” October 31, 2019, President Andrew Johnson’s tenth article of impeachment charged “That the President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the Government of the United States . . . [did] make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces . . . amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled . . ..”

The first of the Articles of Impeachment regarding President Nixon included: “[Nixon] has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice . . .. [He has] engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry [into Democratic National Committee headquarters]; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities. “ (This is followed by nine examples.)

Article II, par. 5, alleged that “he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation . . . and the Central Intelligence Agency.” Article III charged that he “has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives . . ..”

President Bill Clinton’s third article of impeachment included, after citing 7 specific items, “In all of this, [Clinton] has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the Presidency, [and] has betrayed his trust as President . . ..”

Taken together, the evidence is overwhelming that the validity of an article of impeachment does not turn on whether a "law" has been violated. Thus, even if it were true, as some Trump defenders contend, that "he has done nothing illegal" it does not follow that, therefore, he cannot and should not be impeached.

But wait, even if one insists that a violation of law is a requirement for impeachment . . .

Trump Has Violated the Law. Although unnecessary for impeachment, for a response to those who argue “he did nothing illegal” or “there was no quid-pro-quo” it seems clear he did violate the law, and that the law he violated does not require proof of a “quid-pro-quo.”

The law involved is contained in Section 30121 of Title 52, United States Code (“Voting and Elections”).

The relevant words are, “It shall be unlawful for . . . a person to solicit . . . or receive . . . from a foreign national ["a . . . thing of value . . . in connection with a Federal . . . election"].

(The primary subsection is Sec. 30121(a)(2). The [bracketed] words are from subsection 30121(a)(1)(A) because Sec. 30121(a)(2) defines what cannot be received as that which was "described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1).")

Thing of Value. Given the quantity of confirming testimony regarding the range of ways that Trump displayed his desire to obtain dirt on former Vice President, and candidate for president, Joe Biden, there can be no doubt he considered such information “a thing of value in connection with a Federal election.”

Solicitation. Notes from Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included Trump’s now-infamous line, “I would like to ask you to do us a favor, though.” It turns out there was more than one “favor” requested, but one is enough to clearly establish “solicitation.”

Quid-Pro-Quo. Note that the law does not require a quid-pro-quo. So even if there had been no quid-pro-quo that would have been irrelevant to whether Sec. 30121 had been violated. Clearly, it would not have been a defense. But for whatever relevance it may have, it seems to have clearly been the impression of many of those who have testified before Congress that a quid-pro-quo was understood by both presidents.

Without exploring yet another possible crime, the existence of a quid-pro-quo, while irrelevant to Section 30121, may be very relevant to a charge of bribery.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Like the individual "charges" in a grand jury's indictment, there are individual "articles" in an impeachment. I have obtained one of those Articles:

“Article 10. That the President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, designing and intending to set aside the rightful authorities and powers of Congress, did attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States, and the several branches thereof, to impair and destroy the regard and respect of all the good people of the United States for the Congress and the legislative power thereof, which all officers of the government ought inviolably to preserve and maintain, and to excite the odium and resentment of all good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly and before divers assemblages of citizens of the United States, . . . on divers other days and times, as well before as afterwards, make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces . . . amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled . . ..”

Pretty flowery language maybe, but this is a solumn business. A violation of "the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof" pretty well covers a part of what Congress is dealing with, wouldn't you say?

Scholars seeped in details of impeachments in American history will recognizer the quote, above, as one of the 11 Articles of Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson (no relation) approved by Congress March 4, 1868.

So its relevance for us today is not that it is language ultimately included in whatever Articles of Impeachment of President Trump the House sends on to the Senate.

However, for those who interpret the Constitution's language historically, relying on "original intent," it is (1) language that could describe President Trump's behavior, and (2) evidence of what the House of Representatives found to be among the "high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment at the time of the first impeachment 151 years ago.

Sources, Credits and Links

Text source:…/…/briefing/Impeachment_Johnson.htm… Photo credit:, Congressman Brad Sherman, June 12, 2017; Illustration credit: Theodore R. Davis, Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868.

#articlesOFimpeachment, #charges, #Congress, #Constitution, #courtesy, #dignity, #GrandJury,#hatred, #highcrimesANDmisdemeanors, #HouseOfRepresentatives, #impeachment, #indictment, #originalintent, #PresidentAndrewJohnson, #PresidentDonaldTrump, #propriety, #Senate
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Monday, October 21, 2019

What Is A Newspaper?

What Is A Newspaper?"
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 21, 2019, p. A5
NOTE: The first entry in this blog post is the 584-word text, and the requested "sources," as presented to The Gazette's Editorial Board. As of this morning (Oct. 21) the print version (shortened for space and slightly modified) has not yet been posted on The Gazette's Web site. When it is available it will be copied and reproduced below, with a direct link to it here.

For the record, I am not employed by The Gazette, have no financial interest in the paper or its parent corporation, no family member working there, and am not paid for the columns I submit. My motive for writing this column, as my book, Columns of Democracy, makes clear is that I believe very strongly in the urgency of reestablishing democracy in America, and the preeminent role of local journalism in making that possible.

Gazette columnist Adam Sullivan’s “America Needs Local Newspapers” (Oct. 11), put forward a well-written case for local news in general and Iowa’s Carroll Times Herald and Quad-City Times in particular. Both papers had substantial costs of defending themselves in trials they ultimately won.

He’s right. And it’s not just local. Authoritarians are disparaging and assassinating journalists. But there are multiple sources of their stories.

It’s local news that’s disappearing. National print newspaper ad revenue dropped from $60 billion to $20 billion in 15 years. Half our 3,000 counties have only one newspaper, 171 have none; 2,100 papers closed.

So what? Democracies die from a thousand cuts to their supporting institutions: universal public education; fair, inclusive elections; nonpartisan, respected judges -– what I’ve called the Columns of Democracy.

And the greatest of these? An independent, respected journalism. Says who? Says Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."

“Receive those papers?” Little more than one percent of Americans subscribe to the New York Times, or Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal. “Capable of reading them?” Mandatory public education was originally to provide us the civic virtues for active participation in democracy. No longer.

The Gazette is preeminent among our local democratic institutions, serving all of them. Its investigative reporters are our communities’ “inspectors general.” It informs us about our local businesses; schools, colleges and universities; courts, city councils, county supervisors, legislators – plus presidential candidates. It monitors our hospitals, public roads, bridges, parks and libraries. It tracks our safety, from natural disasters to the law breakers and enforcers. It hears our complaints and publishes our letters. It is our historian and librarian, with Time Machine articles and book, Ties to Our Past – plus papers from 1883. It educates and offers advice about our physical and financial wellness, cooking, cars, homes and gardens, “Things To Do Today” and Sunday’s “What’s Trending on the” [Photo credit: Tony Webster, January 25, 2016]

But wait, there’s more! Examine carefully each story, and reporter’s name, in one day’s hard copy or Green Gazette. Leaf through a week’s papers, or stroll through the vast Web site with its Menu, More Links, Our Sites, and Additional Links.

The Gazette is magazines, like Iowa Ideas and HER, special supplements like Hoopla and quarterly Brain Teasers. It is editorial board meetings, Pints and Politics, business breakfasts, and Iowa Ideas symposium. It’s generous support of dozens of organizations and causes -– and more than this space can hold. [Photo: Pints & Politics event before packed house at Theater Cedar Rapids, first evening of 2019 Iowa Ideas symposium, Oct. 3, 2019. From stage right: Erin Jordan, Todd Dorman, James Lynch, Lyz Lenz, Adam Sullivan. Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson]

Forty-five years ago, as a congressional primary candidate, I could look around an Iowa town and guess the quality of its newspaper. It’s still true. If there are things you like about our part of Iowa thank The Gazette.

But it needs our support more than our thanks. Unlike other public institutions, it’s not only protected from government interference it also gets no government support.

The Gazette cannot do it alone. It can print newspapers, but it can’t print money. It needs advertising dollars from an engaged business community. It and our democracy need more of us to subscribe -– even if only digitally.

It is we who need to be engaged in our communities, we who need to be informed about our local challenges and opportunities, we who need to financially support, read and act on the local news in this paper. Do your part.
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City, former media law professor and FCC commissioner, is the author of Columns of Democracy." Comments:

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[; Committee to Protect Journalists (“1354 Journalists Killed between 1992 and 2019/Motive Confirmed”) (“250 Journalists Imprisoned in 2018”)

Amanda Erickson, “2018 Has Been a Brutal Year for Journalists, and It Keeps Getting Worse,” The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2018,

RWB World Press Freedom Index,]

Newspaper economics. Derek Thompson, “The Print Apocalypse and How to Survive It,” The Atlantic, Nov. 3, 2016,

The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts; Daily Papers That Were Closed, Merged, or Shifted to Weeklies,

Newspapers closed. Douglas A. McIntyre, “Over 2000 American Newspapers Have Closed in Past 15 Years,” 24/7 Wall St., July 23, 2019, (“Abernathy told 24/7 Wall St. that, “It appears at this stage that we’ve lost approximately 2,100 papers, all but 70 of which are weeklies, since 2004.” The industry implosion has left almost half of the counties in America (1,449) with only one newspaper, which is usually a weekly. As of the most recent count, 171 counties do not have a paper at all.”)

Thomas Jefferson quote. Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington," January 16, 1787, Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 11:48-49 (emphasis supplied).

Not used: Indeed the media, sometimes called the fourth branch of government, is the only industry recognized and protected by our Constitution (“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press”).

Subscribers. NY Times “new goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025, up from 4.3 million today. Nearly 80 percent of those 2018 subscribers are digital.” AP New York Times subscriber numbers are skyrocketing in the Trump age, Over 265,000 digital subscriptions were added in the last three months of 2018,” Feb. 6, 2019

Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2019 ranking of 180 countries finds only 24% “good” or “satisfactory.” The U.S. fell to 48th.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

An Evangelical Explains Trump

Why did evangelicals vote for Trump?
Thomas L. Johnson, July 18, [otherwise undated; presumably 2019]

NOTE: In order to do anything involving President Donald Trump -- from impeachment to presidential election defeat -- it is necessary to understand as much as possible about the man. There are a number of blog posts and columns in which I've taken a stab at it. For example:
"Intelligence Community's Inspector General and Impeachment," September 26, 2019
Understanding Trump: Know Thine Opponent," September 23, 2019
"Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, August 17, 2019, p. A5 (blog post title: "Marianne Williamson's Questions and Answers")
"Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019 (blog post title: "Why Trump May Win") (a list of 13 categories of Trump's advantages)
• For a contrary view to the one presented here, see Anthea Butler, "White Evangelicals Love Trump and Aren't Confused About Why. No One Should Be.: Focusing on the Disconnect Betseen Trump's Actions and the Moral Aspects of Evangelicals' Faith Misses the Issue That Keeps Their Support Firm," Think, NBC News, September 27, 2019.
However, one perspective I have not, and cannot, provide is how the evangelical portion of his base rationalize to themselves their relatively solid support of the man, seemingly regardless of his violations in thought, word and deed of what one would assume to be evangelicals' beliefs and standards.

As Mayor Pete Buttigieg has put it, "I do think it’s strange, knowing that no matter where you are politically, the gospel is so much about inclusion and decency and humility and care for the least among us, that a wealthy, powerful, chest-thumping, self-oriented, philandering figure like [Donald Trump] can have any credibility at all among religious people. ... Your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. ... That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth." Sojourners. "For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that … God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again." The Atlantic.

[Photo caption: "Members of Cross Community Church, an EA congregation in Berne, Indiana, pose for a photo published on the Evangelical Assocation's Desk Calendar." Photo credit: FatherRon2011, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0,]

The following piece by Thomas L. Johnson (no relation) provides some helpful insights:
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As an evangelical who did not and never will vote for Donald J. Trump, I fully understand why many evangelicals voted for a man who is crass, mean-spirited, personally unethical, and embarrassingly self-serving. They felt that they had no choice and have every reason to feel that again in 2020:
• Trump gave them two Supreme Court justices who will vote their interests for the next thirty years. Given the reality that many if not most evangelicals have never come to terms with abortion, particularly later term abortion, that absolves Trump of his extramarital dalliances.
• Trump has evoked the sort of tribalism that evangelicals understand. They live in a world of us versus them; so does Trump.
• Like Trump, evangelicals do not allow science to compete with their preconceived notions in areas like global warming or perceived conspiracies.
• Trump has embraced Israel. Many conservative Christians see Israel as part of the end-of-times prophecies.
• Like Trump, evangelicals are not fans of social change of the sort that came out of the Obama years. They believe in two genders determined and defined at birth, in a biblical view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and of a level of patriotism that rejects figures like Colin Kaepernick or Megan Rapinoe.
While Hillary Clinton’s campaign and personality were non-starters for evangelicals in 2016, often for reasons created or exploited by Cambridge Analytica, a Democratic candidate from the Medicare for All, open border, free education wing of the Democratic Party will present an even larger challenge.

Given their 25–26% share of the total electorate and their over 80% allegiance to Trumpism, evangelicals will more than offset the moderates who will move out of their comfort zone in the middle to vote for an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Intelligence Community's Inspector General and Impeachment

Now What?
As I watched the three hours of the House Intelligence Committee's questioning of Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire it increasingly seemed to me that (1) no one was entirely pure, and (2) the Constitution and Acts of Congress are inadequate to resolve the challenges confronting the Committee and the Director. [Photo: Director Joseph Maguire; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

The Trump-can-do-no-wrong Republicans were overstating President Trump's innocence. The Democrats were playing fast and loose with the language of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Act (IGICA) and trying to get Director Joseph Maguire to make statements in support of their case for impeachment that Maguire was at least entitled, if not required, to refuse to make. And Director Maguire was refusing to acknowledge the conflict of interest he had in (a) serving the President who had appointed him and to whom he reported, and (b) carrying out the spirit (though not the language) of the IGICA. [Photo: President Donald Trump; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

This blog is not a "legal opinion." I have read the IGICA -- which can be found here 50 USC Sec. 3033 -- and scanned the 8000-plus-word Responsibilities and Authorities of the Director of National Intelligence Act -- available here 50 USC Sec. 3024. That's not enough research to produce a definitive judgment about the applicability of either or both laws.

But the IGICA's title referencing the "Intelligence Community," its numerous uses of variations of the phrase "programs and activities within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence" throughout the Act, can reasonably lead one to the conclusion that the probable legislative history of the Act (i.e., events preceding and surrounding its creation, press reports, committee hearings, and debates on the floor) would not support an interpretation of the language of the Act as including the process to be followed in the case earlier before Director Maguire and now before Congress: namely acts of the President alleged to be "fraud and abuse," other criminal violations, or threats to national security. [Photo: House Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

Of course, this does not mean that the President did no wrong. It is only to say that it is not clear that the IGICA contemplated or addressed, let alone compelled, the Inspector General to investigate, or Director Maguire to send to the Intelligence Committee the Inspector General's findings.

What they clearly could do, and did do, was to refer the whistle-blower's complaint to the FBI.

The central problem, as I now see it, is that neither the Constitution nor acts of Congress address the challenges to our democracy posed by a president like President Donald Trump. Indeed, I doubt that the founders' effort to avoid a monarchy in the White House, and their single choice of impeachment as a check on "high crimes and misdemeanors," envisioned the possibility we would ever elect a president like Trump.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president and other officials, Article II, Sec. 4, that the House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Article I, Sec. 2, clause 5, and that the Senate "shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." Article I, Sec. 3, clause 6. (Article II, Sec. 4, provides: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.")

The 25th Amendment, certified by the President in 1967, provides for removal of a president found to be "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" -- a remedy primarily focused on physical or mental disability.

While the allegations in the whistle-blower's complaint may be among the most serious of Trump's offenses, the challenge confronting Congress is the tsunami of Trump's governance by tweets, over 14,000 false or misleading statements, attacks on columns of democracy (such as an independent media and judiciary), brazen violations of previously accepted required norms, ethics, morality, laws and constitutional restraints on presidents. For a partial list, see, e.g., Max Boot, "Trump Isn't Just Violating Norms -- He's Also Breaking the Law," The Washington Post, April 25, 2019.

What Congress must do is (1) reassert the constitutional powers it has been granted, that have gradually been taken over by the Executive branch, and (2) then address what additional checks are necessary to deal with this unprecedented string of presidential abuses. Perhaps what is first needed is a kind of Congressional Inspector General whose sole job it is to oversee the president and White House staff, receiving whistle-blower complaints, doing its own monitoring, then reporting to the House and Senate leadership and relevant committees. Perhaps this could provide the congressional incentive to create the constitutionally appropriate additional legislation to restrain the variety and quantity of presidential abuses unimagined by the constitution's drafters.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Understanding Trump: Know Thine Opponent

Understanding Trump

For 2500 years humans have been advised of the importance of knowing, of understanding, one's opponent in politics and enemy in war. Notwithstanding the availability of such advice it is more often ignored than followed -- including our "wars" in Vietnam and soon-score of years in Afghanistan.

The first known offer of this advice came from a famous Chinese general, Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.). He wrote:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War, III. Attack by Stratagem, 18.

I read books when I have time to sit. When I'm driving, walking, or tending to home chores that require my eyes but not my ears, I listen to audiobooks. This morning, while doing kitchen chores, I was listening to Cliff Sims' Team of Vipers. Sims was involved with the Trump campaign and White House and seems capable of a relatively balanced portrayal of the President -- at least as far as I am in the book. What he said reminded of Sun Tzu, so much so that one section of Sims' chapter 7 caused me to go back to it later, when at my laptop and able to transcribe it. [Photo: Cliff Sims with President Trump on walkway outside Oval Office; photo credit: Yellowhammer News]

Cliff Sims was describing former Speaker Newt Gingrich's effort to categorize politicians by using the ancient Greek poet Archilochus' line, "a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing." Hedgehogs are the "big picture guys." Foxes are the policy wonks, focused on details and creative alternative solutions to problems.

With these ancient literary sources in mind, here is what Sims wrote:
Trump is a hedgehog who knows one very big thing: 'We need change.' . . . He is the agent who will deliver the needed change. . . . Trump believes he alone, often through shere force of will, can solve certain problems. That's one lens. Layered on top of that is his belief that all of life is a negotiation, and that all negotiation is a zero-sum game. There's no such thing as a 'win-win.' Someone will win and someone will lose. Layered on top of that is his belief that personal relationships are paramount, taking precedence in all negotiations, even over mutual interests. And layered on top of that is his belief that creating chaos gives him an advantage, because he's more comfortable in the mayhem than anyone else.
Make of it what you will. This characterization of Trump helped me to understand the Democrats' opponent. And I'm with Sun Tzu -- knowing, understanding, Trump is an essential part of any successful campaign.
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See also, "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure,""The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Presidential Qualities

Considering Bullock's Presidential Qualities

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, September 18, 2019, p. A6

Democrats will end up voting for whomever their convention picks. This column is too early for an endorsement. My favorite will be someone as a campaigner who can beat President Trump, and as president will have the competence, compassion, relationships, experience and ethics to be effective.

Get out the vote? Yes. But to win the Democrats’ candidate will have to win over independents, Libertarians, Greens, and yes, Republicans and the 40-percent-plus of voters who still support President Trump. Where do those voters live? Where Democrats must go to become a national party: those 80 percent of U.S. counties that President Trump carried in 2016.

Earlier I wrote about Marianne Williamson’s formula for Democrats’ victory – while acknowledging her odds of becoming the party’s candidate were somewhere between slim and none. ("Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, Aug. 17, 2019) Governor Steve Bullock’s current odds may be no better. But his qualities and strengths are something Democrats should look for in whomever they choose next July.

Bullock is the only incumbent Democratic governor to win re-election in a state that Trump carried (in Montana by 20 points).

He’s persuaded his Republican Legislature to pass progressive programs: campaign finance reform, Medicaid expansion and more. He is, as we say, mostly “right on the issues,” both as governor and as campaigner.

He’s been sufficiently pro-labor as Montana’s attorney general, governor and practicing lawyer to have been endorsed by the AFL-CIO – and Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller. And he’s sufficiently respected by other governors to chair the National Governors Association.

He is a young 53. I have two sons older than that.

He and his wife, Lisa, grew up in Montana, have been married to each other for 20 years and have three children. Both are well educated; he has a law degree, with honors, from Columbia, she a degree in mathematics and computer science.

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore; Governor Steve Bullock speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.]

He comes across as genuine, comfortable in his skin and his Levis. He can connect with small town folk, farmers, ranchers, and others in the mountain time zone and the 80 percent of counties Trump carried, as well as Washington (where he practiced law) and New Hampshire, where he’s picked up support.

We have no training program for presidents. Any president would benefit from experience on the receiving end of the White House’s impact on school boards, cities, counties, state governors, legislatures, the U.S. House and Senate, military, intelligence and executive branch agencies, federal courts, international organizations and our allies.

No Democratic presidential candidate today has the range of experience in those venues possessed by President George H.W. Bush (43’s father) or former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (

“Senator” is not an administrative position. Governors come the closest to the administrative and legislative challenges confronting presidents; 17 presidents had experience as governors.

Whomever the Democrats ultimately choose, Bullock provides examples of the strengths they should be seeking.

Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is a three-time presidential appointee whose latest book about Washington is Catfish Solution. Comments:

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Links to Governor Bullock Sites
As explained in the opening paragraph, this blog post is NOT an endorsement. But if you are intrigued by what you've just read, here are links to Governor Bullock's Web site and some of his supporters' Facebook pages:

Web Page
Bullock 2020,, and see "Meet Steve,"

Steve Bullock For President
Bullock For America
Governor Steve Bullock
Gov. Steve Bullock For President 2020

And here are some of the sources used in writing this post:

(1) Brandon Duffy, “Democratic hopeful Steve Bullock on what Amazon and President Trump have in common, and why young voters should care,” CNBC, Sept. 1, 2019,

(2)Wikipedia, “Steve Bullock (American politician),”

(3) S Grace Panetta, “Steve Bullock is running for president in 2020. Here's everything we know about the candidate and how he stacks up against the competition,” Business Insider, Jul. 31, 2019, 11:11 AM

(4) Steve Bullock’s Biography, Vote Smart,

(5) Jonathan Martin, “Steve Bullock, Montana Governor, Is Running for President,” New York Times, May 14, 2019, p. A18,

(6) Steve Israel, “Can Steve Bullock Win?” The Hill, Aug. 21, 2019,

(7) “First Lady Lisa Bullock,” Office of Governor Steve Bullock,” undated,

(8) “List of Presidents of the United States by Previous Experience,” Wikipedia

(9) The tinyurl following the Governor Bill Richardson experience reference ( links to one of my prior Gazette columns, “Candidates’ ‘Experience,’” (The Gazette, March 30, 2008, p. A9,

(10) For number of counties carried by Trump in 2016 see, e.g., Mark Muro and Sifan Liu, “Another Clinton-Trump Divide: High-Output America vs Low-Output America,” The Avenue, Brookings, Nov. 29, 2016

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Note: Some of the handful of words that were deleted for reasons of space in the published column have been included in this version.